Syracuse lost two players to the transfer portal on Monday, following Saturday’s 62-46 loss in the Sweet Sixteen loss to 2-seed Houston. The Cougars have since punched their ticket to the Final Four with a 67-61 win over 12-seed Oregon State in the Elite Eight. Coach Jim Boeheim alluded to some departures on Saturday night,
“We’ll have guys leave… And in the next two to three weeks, as things happen, we’re going to have to adjust to it and start recruiting in the transfer portal because we’ll have guys in there.”
Redshirt freshman center John Bol Ajak got the ball rolling with his announcement.
Ajak made his SU debut this season against Niagara and grabbed a rebound in nine minutes of play. The Sudan native competed in 10 games for Syracuse and never played over 10 minutes in one single contest. His lone basket came against Rider in early December, and had a couple big blocks in the center of the zone defense.
Ajak came to Syracuse as a 3-star center recruit in the 2019 class that ranked 33rd nationally, 7th in the ACC. He joins Brycen Goodine as the second departure from the class.
Ajak projects to be picked up by a Big East or A-10 team in the portal. He’s 6-10, 215 and capable of playing forward of center with at least three years of eligibility remaining. Coming out of Westtown School in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Ajak had offers from Georgetown, Saint Louis, Seton Hall, Villanova, VCU and Uconn.
Ajak’s transfer could mean a couple different things reading the tea leaves. First, there’s optimism throughout Melo Center that Quincy Guerrier will return next season.
This news got lost in the proverbial sauce yesterday with all the transfer news, but Guerrier plans to test the NBA Draft waters and get some feedback on whether or not he should return to SU. The Canadian has at least two years of eligibility left if he wants it. Does Ajak’s transfer mean the vibe in Melo is that Guerrier will return? Probably.
The candyman took big steps this season. Part of the reason why the Fizz Staff labeled him as the “most improved player.” He has the tools to make the jump to the league now, but it seems more likely that he’ll return for one more season to further refine his game.
Ajak’s transfer could also mean that Marek Dolezaj will return for another season. The Orange shouldn’t need the Slovakian native to be featured as the “5” next season with the presumed emergence of rising junior Jesse Edwards. However, SU could benefit from one more year of Doly because of his value on both ends of the floor as a defender, distributor, and scorer.
Okay, now for the more puzzling transfer of the two. Syracuse has some traffic building at the “3” spot. The Orange have Alan Griffin who could easily slide to the “2”, rising sophomore Woody Newton, and incoming 5-star Benny Williams.
Many in CNY thought it would be Newton that ended up submitting his name to the portal, but instead it’s Bobby Braz. The Florida native hardly played during the regular season and occasionally came off the bench if SU needed more length on defense and someone that could cash a three. Once postseason play started, Braswell took on a bigger role than anybody could’ve seen coming.
Braswell’s numbers rocketed to 7.4 points per game and 2.2 rebounds per game, while playing about 23 minutes per contest. The thing is the team looked good with him in the game. There was more length in the corner and he gave SU a better chance on the boards against bigger teams. Not to mention he was a bonafide sniper from beyond the arc.
Braswell’s transfer could translate to a few different outcomes, much like Ajak’s. First, Marek Dolezaj’s return is likely. Already mentioned this with Ajak, but Dolezaj’s versatility in the zone means he can steal minutes from guys at any spot 3-5. Braswell may have been sick of coming off the bench as he certainly looked like a starter in the postseason.
Second, incoming 5-star forward Benny Williams is the real deal. This seems to be the vibe amongst the players and those inside Melo.
Williams comes from IMG Academy, and at 6-8, 180 has all the intangibles to dominate at the “3” spot for SU. He’ll likely defend the wing and play in one of the corners of the zone. This is where Braswell would come in and log minutes. As Buddy Boeheim said after the Sweet Sixteen loss to Houston, Williams should come in and make a big impact right away. That potential impact may have grown even more with Braswell’s departure.
Finally, Woody Newton will remain on the Hill. The rising sophomore appeared in 11 games this season for Syracuse. SU fans got a glimpse of what could be in the Rider game when Newton logged 22 minutes for the Orange. Woody was one of the players that suffered from the team COVID pause following the Buffalo win on December 19.
Newton never really seemed to regain any footing in the lineup and had people asking about his whereabouts. He did play in the NCAA Tournament against San Diego State in the round of 64 win. He played one minute and hit a three.
It seemed far more likely that Newton would head for the greener pastures this offseason, but for now that’s not the case. Instead it was Braswell. So for now, Newton looks to take advantage of this offseason and try to fight off Williams and secure the starting spot or carve out some kind of role next season on the Syracuse team.
Please note, players that enter the transfer portal have the option to remove their name and return to their school with no penalty.
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